Rebrand aims to attract students with Gen-Z look

Photo by Nicole Hernandez.

Two-word phrases like “relentlessly pursue” are key components of new college messaging, design

It’s hard to miss the graffiti-style message spanning across the windows of Napolitan Student Center: “Relentlessly pursue.”

Around campus hang signs with familiar faces and more two-word phrases—“decidedly mindful,” “powerfully motivated” and “generously supportive,” among others.

These campus signs are the final implementation of a four-stage plan kicked off by the college last November during President Thomas Minar’s State of the College address, where he identified five priorities for the next year, one of which was marketing and brand development.

The goal was to define what sets Franklin College apart from other colleges through one voice and consistent messaging for each academic department and student organization.

Theresa Lehman, marketing director, and Kate Coffman, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid, were two of the four members of the core branding team. Minar and Tim Garner, associate vice president for institutional analytics and special projects, were also members.

A larger, stakeholder team was also involved in the college’s rebranding initiative. That team included trustees, college administrators and professors. Many members of this broader team are also a part of the Strategic Planning Around Reorganization of the Curriculum group.

“We wanted to make sure we weren’t doing anything that, in a year or two, would not make sense with the new curriculum,” Coffman said. “We wanted to make good use of the college’s resources, and we want this brand to be able to be used for as long as it makes sense and feels natural.”

To develop the brand, the college hired Columbus, Ohio-based agency Ologie. The agency specializes in Generation Z, or students born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, and higher education branding and marketing. Some of its past clients include Purdue University, Northwestern University and the College of William & Mary.

The cost of the branding project remained on-budget and came from operations as part of the college’s existing strategic planning budget.

In the first “discover” phase, the agency selected an array of current students to participate in 45-minute discussion groups to share what they thought of the college and its brand.

Banners featuring Franklin College students appeared on campus this year. The phrases on each banner match its student’s personality, according to senior Lauren Harmon, who was featured on a banner. Photo by Nicole Hernandez.

“Students were very honest with them,” Coffman said. “They left feeling like students were really honest about the positives and the experience they have here but also things that they would like to see changed.”

After that, Ologie came to the college’s marketing team in the second “strategy” phase with a narrative of how Franklin College could talk about itself. This meant crafting authentic messaging and pulling out what makes the college unique, including having faculty advocates, a close-knit community and an opportunity to be a campus leader from day one.

In the third “creative” phase, the agency developed a visual identity that matched the written messaging. Ologie brought the college teams three “looks,” which were quickly narrowed into the one seen around campus.

“At the end, [campus representatives] were saying, ‘I want this on a shirt. This is the Franklin I know. This isn’t my father’s Franklin,’” she said. “They felt it was very authentic to Franklin and very much felt like us.”

Senior Lauren Harmon participated in a student focus group because of her involvement in volleyball and as a new student mentor.

“We are kind of an old-school institution where it’s always been the gold and the blue,” she said. “I think it’s nice to bring in some new ideas, because I think we’ve been set in our ways for a century.”

Lehman said in the past the college has marketed itself by slapping Ben Franklin—a figure who really doesn’t have much to do with Franklin College—on materials to prospective students.

“A 17-year-old doesn’t relate to that,” Lehman said. “Founding fathers aren’t really that cool.”

Harmon’s picture is on a banner seen while leaving campus on Branigin Boulevard. Her banner says “boldly intentional.”

“It’s cool because those phrases kind of match the person that’s on the poster,” Harmon said. “They are so powerful, and I think it’s great because it’s promoting that type of thinking within our students. Be boldly intentional. Pursue your dreams. Don’t let anything hold you back. I think that, at a college, they should be doing that.”

Coffman and Lehman said the brand will be integrated into academic departments, student organizations and other college materials, including the Franklin College website, on a rolling basis.

Student Congress was one of the first student organizations to integrate the new branding. Senior and Student Congress President Taylor Williams worked with the marketing team and other Student Congress members to design a back-to-school t-shirt that integrated the six personality traits laid out in the new brand: adaptable, collaborative, purposeful, sincere, practical and engaged.

Although the marketing team wants student organizations to include aspects of the new college branding into their designs, Williams said she and the rest of Student Congress still feels they have creative freedom to present themselves as a student organization.

“Franklin College is kind of this treasure that no one talks about,” Williams said. “But now we’re getting to talk about it. It shows in our branding.”

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About Ashley Shuler 1253 Articles

Ashley Shuler is the executive editor of The Franklin. She has held various multimedia journalism and public relations internships, including positions at Indianapolis Monthly, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and Dittoe Public Relations.

When she isn’t staying up late to edit stories, Ashley spends her time boutique shopping and drinking as much vanilla Coke as possible.

This is Ashley’s third year in a leadership role and her fourth year on The Franklin staff. She previously held positions as web editor and news editor.

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